Archive for Marketing trivia

Her Quick Thinking Saved My Life!

For years I’ve proclaimed to everyone how wonderful my bride is.two hearts as one

She’s saved me from loneliness, destitution, hunger, the East Coast and memories of countless failed relationships.

Last week she saved me again, with the Heimlich maneuver.

You see, after a pretzel left a dusty trail in my throat, I drank a club soda.

Whoom! The bubbles, reacting with the dust, created a thousand tiny sponges simultaneously expanding in my throat.

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even choke.

In my mind I was already writing the police report concluding with “Stupid way to die.”

My bride had other plans, acting fast and saving my life.

During his lifetime, Dr. Henry Heimlich’s signature move saved 100,000+ lives. Mine’s now on the list.

Today I joke about laughing at death, but I’ll admit to being scared.

My bride asked me not to tell this story, but this is unquestionably a teachable moment.

Choking can happen to anyone, anytime.

Cliché? Maybe, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

So how does this tie into a marketing column? Obviously, I can’t just celebrate my life partner’s accomplishment and be done with it.

So consider this scenario: You’re having lunch at work tomorrow and a piece of sandwich catches in your throat. Older readers will remember this is how Mama Cass Elliott purportedly died in 1974 (not true!)

A co-worker with whom you’ve clashed sees you turning blue, your hand at your throat. He steps behind you, performs the Heimlich maneuver, and saves your life.

Your associate wasn’t looking for applause, but to you he is now a hero. Your opinion of this person has gone up several notches. Past disagreements suddenly seem trivial.

The message sent and received was that common decency overcame company politics.

Today we’re swimming through a sea of disagreements, with former friends consistently at each other’s throats over every twitch and tweet coming from the nation’s capital.

And perhaps I’m fantasizing to believe that we’re all decent enough to save the next guy, even if we radically oppose whatever he stands for.

But since at the moment I’m still believing in miracles, give me this one. And if you don’t know how to do the Heimlich maneuver, learn.

Because you could easily save a life tomorrow.

With that said, I wish you a week of stress-free marketing.

Reach the newly optimistic Mr. Marketing at www.askmrmarketing.com.

You’re calling it WHAT?

Driving through CoPerformanceUtilitySupply_Underground-Utilities-Home1rona I spotted a roadside sign reading PUS.

Having a twisted sense of humor, I wondered who would want to buy the stuff.

The sign was attached to a company named Performance Utility Supply. They sell hardware to the power and lighting industries.

I’m guessing most of their customers are “manly” men in construction. Their website photo of an unshaven guy wearing his PUS gear reinforces my suspicion.

The company also has a sexually suggestive line emblazoned on their trucks. And if this strategy works for them, who am I to argue?

Still, one has to wonder about the long-term wisdom of this type of gender-based marketing. While today women only make up 9% of construction workers, change is inevitable.

Over the past 50 years, women have achieved parity in one industry after another. In the current political climate, their numbers can only be expected to increase.

All suggesting the eventuality of more women buyers in one of the last bastions of male domination: construction.

It’s no surprise that women oftentimes view the world differently than men. Historically, professional women are less likely to engage in sophomoric hijinks than their male counterparts.

Which all points to women buyers in construction and related trades who will want to be taken seriously and/or be offended by the PUS name and marketing strategy.

Naming a business can be tricky, easily going down the wrong path. Things to consider when you’re naming your business include:

  • How will your audience receive it?
  • How will your acronym read?
  • Is the name exciting, or a compromise reached to satisfy a committee?
  • Does the name say something, or is it just feeding someone’s ego?
  • Are you just mashing words together in hopes of being clever?
  • Do you stand out of the crowd in a good way?
  • Are you merely naming the business after the town you live in?
  • Are you using clichés or obscure words?
  • Is your spelling funky?
  • Can you get a domain to match your company name?
  • Are you budgeting enough to brand your name to customers?
  • Can you admit if the company name is just wrong?

Company names should bring value to the table. The last thing you want is for customers to be offended when they see your business’ name.

Delivering Savings Until Closing Time Today

A man walks into the post office…WONDERUSPS2

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn’t it?

But there I was waiting to buy postage and I discovered a coupon jointly issued by Hallmark and the U.S. Postal Service.

In truth I shouldn’t have been surprised. For the past few years the Postal Service has been getting increasingly commercial in an effort to overcome an annual $5 billion deficit. And because the USPS is a quasi-governmental agency receiving zero tax dollars, that money obviously has to come from someplace.

So, a few years back they started selling ancillary items like packing supplies and greeting cards.

Then they struck deals to feature animated characters on postage stamps, including Bambi, Big Bird and Daffy Duck.

Today, stamps featuring Wonder Woman can be affixed to Snoopy greeting cards, both purchased at the postal counter.

The tie-in between postage stamps and Hallmark greeting cards is a logical one.

Post offices have a built-in customer traffic flow. Most cards get mailed and need stamps.

What better place to tie the stamps, card, and customers together than there?

Furthermore, free email graphics have been the source of headaches for Hallmark executives for a long time.

If they can sell more cards and pay the USPS a sales commission, everyone wins, right?

Their plan is obvious;

  • Customer chooses a card from the multiple displays in the postal store lobby;
  • Coupon offers $1 off 3 cards if purchased before Feb. 17, 2017 (That’s TODAY, in case you hadn’t noticed!);
  • Customer buys two additional cards and stamps for mailing them

The promotion’s demise date screams “Valentine’s Day,” though any cards sold there qualify for the discount.

Now let’s examine your business. Odds are good there’s a potential partner for you, regardless of what you sell.

Car dealerships can join forces with area gas stations. Bakeries can work with exercise studios, which, in turn, can partner with beverage companies.

The USPS isn’t collecting buyers’ contact information, but there’s no reason you can’t. A list of buyers is incredibly valuable, since:

  • They like what you and your partner sell
  • You have an established relationship
  • They’re likely to buy from you again

Partnerships must be carefully thought out and planned, but can be very successful if done right. Learn from the USPS and develop one today.

How much would you charge?

breakfast sandwichI just flew in from Sacramento, and BOY are my arms tired!

Sorry…I’ve always wanted to say that.

At the airport my bride purchased a “substandard” bagel and “okay” coffee for $6.04. The same counter was selling breakfast sandwiches for $11.

Realizing I’m in the wrong business, I pondered how anyone has the nerve to charge such exorbitant prices.

First thought: Greed. Airport dining options are limited and most vacationers, feeling expansive, don’t bring their own food.

Plus with millions of guaranteed customers, a “Take it or leave it” attitude is almost understandable.

Especially since airport meals typically fade from memory before the next suitcase is packed.

Then I considered my neighborhood’s gas stations. One at the freeway entrance consistently charges 80 cents more per gallon than the place across the street lacking ramp access.

Given the minor differences from one brand of gasoline to another, the price differential must be caused by the convenience factor; the station’s location.

Economics 101 dictates something is worth only what customers believe its value to be.

A bottle of cold water selling for 25 cents at Costco is worth $3 when sold on a hot day inside a football stadium. Customers willingly throw money for the same item due to its increased perceived value.

Meaning we’re witnessing the law of supply and demand in action. The gas stations, airport restaurants, and water vendors are all charging as much as their particular customers are willing to pay.

You too should be looking to bestow some form of additional perceived value on your business. Like the airport, gas station, and football stadium, you may have location as an advantage.

Carrying hard-to-find products, providing amazing service, or making something of significantly higher quality than the competition also helps.

Or just making the experience more pleasant than the competition does might make the difference.

Greeting customers with a cheery “Hello friends!” and playing classical background music for those enjoying a morning cup of coffee, for example.

Of course, the answer to business success changes based on industry, geography, customer demographics, and your definition of success.

But if you can find that one thing that makes both you and your customers happy, you may suddenly find you’ve become quite popular.

Selling with a smile

Successful salespeople looking to immediately develop customer rapport know smiling-thumbs-upthe importance of a smile.

A smile is a universal indicator of openness, friendliness, relaxation, and likeability. It’s a powerful asset for salespeople looking to build long-term client relationships.

Consider a job interview I once screwed up.

It was about 20 years ago in Boston, and I was perfect for the position. We went through the interview process and I met six or seven people with whom I’d be working. Everything was lining up in my favor.

After the meeting I wandered over to Quincy Market for lunch. Lost in thought, I didn’t pay much attention to the fellow in the suit giving me the once-over.

Not recognizing him as an executive who’d wandered through the meeting I just completed, I gave him a sour look.

It all went south from there, and I never heard from them again.

In hindsight, looking pleasant, or at least neutral, would have undoubtedly been more profitable. Live and learn, right?

Smiling’s value can’t be underestimated. It can easily make the difference between whether or not you walk out with a signed contract in your pocket.

Ask yourself if you smile:

  1. While talking about your company
  2. On phone calls when the other person can’t see you
  3. During public speaking engagements
  4. During video-conference calls
  5. In your professional headshot

People will quickly spot fake smiles, so sincerity’s important for a smile to be an effective tool.

Okay, it’s true that many sales professionals have a naturally upbeat personality, smiling frequently throughout the day and during interactions with customers and prospects.

Interestingly, this simple act also happens to be one of the most effective ways to cut through adverse situations, conflicts, and disappointment. If you’ve just been told no or a deal has fallen through, a smile is your first defense against negativity.

Indeed, many studies show that smiling attracts people because it projects positivity.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow astutely observed; “Into each life some rain must fall,” but a smile is the best defense. Even if you’re talking with people who don’t have time or money or don’t want to listen to you, smile anyway. It keeps you in control of your life, your emotions, and your selling process.

A Vision For Tomorrow

trump-clinton-1-620x412In September, 2001, my family and I were buying a house north of Boston. Then 9/11 hit, scrambling everyone’s plans.

Our initial reaction was to stop the transaction and hide until things settled down. But with a $15,000 deposit at risk, we saw little choice but to proceed with the purchase.

Having consummated the deal, everything eventually sorted itself out. We picked up our lives and made a future we were happy with, including moving to RB a year later.

Flip forward to Mr. Trump’s stunning upset in the presidential election. Millions of voters unhappily watched the nation choose its new leader.

In quick succession I heard people I respect talk seriously about fleeing the country or halting major new initiatives.

Panic of the unknown and riots in the streets ensued. This was combined with wild gyrations in financial markets and comparisons to an American Brexit from sanity.

If you’re one of these people, remember how much you have invested in your lives, communities, and businesses. You can’t just go blindly running off into the night, screaming.

Because whether or not you’re pleased with the presidential election results, we all must deal with this new reality.

Furthermore, because of America’s reach and impact on virtually everything worldwide, there’s really no place to hide as the next four years unfold.

Want the silver lining? It’s nine weeks until the new administration is seated. This provides you adequate time to revisit your marketing plan to reflect the prospect of a Trump administration.

Reconsider your media choices, sales offerings, and audiences. If you truly believe your business will soon go downhill, plan to invest more in your marketing to counter that potential scenario.

And what if you got the election results you wanted? You’d best quickly move beyond gloating and singing “Dong Dong, The Witch Is Dead,” lest you offend customers who don’t see the world the same way you do.

Bottom line: The election’s done. It’s time to focus once again on growing our businesses. The distraction caused by candidates sucking all the oxygen from the room with every utterance is rapidly being replaced with the minutiae associated with actually governing.

As for me, I’m just grateful that Indecision 2016 is behind us, and look forward to a better tomorrow.

About that Walking Billboard…

jack-o-smashMoving to California in 2002, I immediately heard about the region’s famous “green flash” at sunset.

Over the past 14 years I’ve seen it exactly never, though I remain ever hopeful.

To compensate I drink lots of Green Flash beer. The only green I see through my bloodshot eyes is the stuff leaving my wallet to pay the barkeep.

So it was with a certain amount of relief that I saw a green flash at Tuesday morning’s Rotary meeting in Rancho Bernardo.

What I initially thought to be a hallucination, though, turned out to be whirlwind Realtor Sue Herndon. Her screaming green T-shirt was touting this Sunday’s Jack-O-Smash fundraiser at Poway’s SportsPlex.

As she talked about the fun times ahead and the charities being supported, I took a moment to notice the dozens of company logos represented on her shirt.

Their support of the PoVa therapeutic riding program, the Abraxas High School Transitions Program and PUSD’s special education foundation told me these are good corporate citizens, deserving of my respect and patronage.

Which, by one of those strange coincidences of life, was EXACTLY what they wanted me to take away from the experience.

Okay, I confess … when I put on a T-shirt I don’t necessarily think much about whose name or logo is on it.

Yet I recognize that my wearing that shirt has two implications. First there’s the obvious marketing message.

But there’s a second layer that subliminally ties my reputation to the organization and sponsors represented on the shirt.

In effect, my wearing that T-shirt is an endorsement of everything said on it.

Whoa! When did getting dressed become so complicated?

Here’s the thing: there are dozens of organizations worthy of your business’ support within a stone’s throw of where you’re sitting right now.

Beyond finding a cause you believe in to contribute to, you’ll also benefit by finding one where your contribution buys you space on their T-shirts.

For a few dollars you may be able to arrange to have hundreds of people using their own credibility, reputation, and network to market for you.

As you develop your 2017 marketing plan, set some money aside to help the community while helping yourself.

Admittedly this isn’t a fancy or high-tech communications strategy. But people DO pay attention to these things, and it can be effective.

Hey…Where’d You Go?

column-movedSometimes my dog gets lonely. He’s 12 and set in his ways.

This is challenging on days when I’m out for the entire day.

Enter doggy daycare (yes, there is such a thing), where he spends his time with a pack of 80 furry knuckleheads.

He’s happy and safe there, meaning I can tend to business.

So imagine my surprise when I drove up last week to find the daycare facility had vanished. A crew was overhauling the building for a new tenant. A small sign directed me to a location two miles away where the daycare providers had moved to.

The new location was buried at the far end of a long parking lot. Though I eventually found it, my unanticipated detour forced a 15-minute delay for a client meeting.

The facility no doubt updated their Facebook page with their new address…only I rarely visit that page.

So how was I to know they’d moved? And how difficult would it have been for the daycare staff to send me an email with this news?

A bizarre concept, right? You’re changing location and tell people where to find you so they can continue doing business with you.

Failing to tell anyone (with the possible exception of those on-site the week of the move) guarantees these guys will lose business.

At some point that new tenant will move into the old location and the signage pointing to the new daycare facility will disappear.

When that happens, anyone visiting the old location will probably assume the daycare facility is defunct and find a new service provider.

Every business has a house list of current, past, and prospective customers. Over 30 years I’ve learned the most profitable organizations regularly communicate with everyone on that list.

Communications (newsletters, promotions, emails, texts, calls, postcards, etc.) should vary by audience.

Because whether you’re sharing buying opportunities, factoids, stories, or case histories, customers must be reminded why they need to have you in their lives.

Recognizing that out of sight is out of mind, regular customer outreach ensures customers think of you often and remember to buy from you.

Regular customer contact will grow your business over time, as well as helping you to weather disruptions like moving the business to a new location.

Say the Secret Word

grouchoOn his 1950s game show You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx used to reward contestants who guessed the secret word of the day.

And though the words have changed, contestants in today’s business world are also rewarded when they determine their secret word.

Consider LA’s Magic Castle, where the secret word is exclusivity.

Behind these walls, patrons are entertained by the finest magicians in the world.

Seriously, this isn’t Harry Potter.

In the Hollywood Hills sits the equivalent of Broadway for the Merlin set. There you’ll find virtuoso magicians perfecting their craft and their patter, and experience prestidigitation sure to confound even the most careful observer.

It’s an experience unlike any other.

Entry into this private club is by invitation only. Jacket and tie are required, and the atmosphere is decidedly upscale.

We visited the club Friday night and left there sated by fine food and intelligent conversation.

We remain totally confounded about how that lemon got into that empty cup not 12 inches from my nose.

Joining the club costs $5,000 and involves jumping through hoops. Despite that, they have a waiting list a mile long.

Consider that: their reputation for rarified air combines with high prices…and more people want to buy their offerings.

Now consider the Rolls Royce: Handmade, limited quantities, negligible recalls…and VERY desirable.

Are you seeing a pattern?

Now examine your business. Regardless of what you sell, you can benefit from an image of exclusivity.

After all, if customers see your offerings as a commodity, you’ll find yourself in a race to the bottom. Price alone will determine whether you make the sale, since people can probably buy what you sell for less down the street.
And don’t kid yourself; many customers WILL go down the street to save $2.Or they’ll come to your store with their questions, then make their purchases online. Sometimes they’ll shop online while in your store.

However, if the public recognizes they can’t get your offerings anyplace else, several things happen:

•    You eliminate competition

•    You become more desirable

•    You can raise prices

Face it: if you’ve got the only lemonade stand in town on a hot day you’re going to get lots of business, even if you charge extra.

Making your business’ secret word “Lucrative.”

Donuts and Business

saturnMy 2002 Saturn’s starting to show its age. First the AC died…then the battery went…or was it the alternator?

Either way, my bride’s been after me to replace the old girl, but I like her. With only 129,000 miles, this vehicle should be good for years to come. Plus she’s already paid for.

Still, things sometimes need to be replaced. So while the wizards at Poway’s 5-Star Automotive patched up my car this morning I munched on donuts, read magazines, and chatted with other customers.

Good thing, because I discovered someone who recognized she needed marketing to grow her business. And she understands that quality services cost money.

We talked about her desires for growth, audience, and what makes anyone want to buy from her.

Which transformed a 2-hour car repair visit into a sales call. A contract should follow behind shortly.

Woo Hoo!

I’ve met people who refuse to attend networking events because they cost money or take away from personal time.

These same people complain their business isn’t growing as much as they want it to.

However, since selling is a numbers game, talking to more people automatically improves your chances of making a sale.

That’s why you’ll find me trolling chamber of commerce events, filling in for friends at BNI, and visiting a wide range of organizational meetings.

I figure the more people I talk with, the more people I’ll meet with marketing needs.

From there it’s just a matter of persuading those prospects I walk on water and the deal is done.

Now, realistically, you can’t do business with everyone. But the opportunity I had this morning didn’t take me out of my way or cost me anything.

Just by my being open to listening to someone else’s needs, I was able to show her a potential solution. She saw I actively listened to what she was saying and decided I could probably help with her problems.

And so a sale was born.

Regardless of what you sell, you’re constantly surrounded by people who might buy from you. The trick is helping them self-select as potential customers.

If they sense you’re only interested in selling to them you’ll turn them off. But if they believe you’re interested in providing answers you’ll close the deal.